Bypassing the Cult of Denim

My favorite time of the year for fashion is the autumn. Each summer I can hardly wait for the huge September issues of the fashion magazines loaded with fresh ideas and the most complex, lush styles of the year.

Alas, every year, just before those fabulous September issues, arrive the August issues. Somehow every fashion editor drinks from the same Kool-Aid and concludes that the August issue simply must be devoted to denim. Here’s Anne Fulenwider, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, writing in the August 2015 issue:

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“My entire relationship with denim rests on the almost-mythological notion that I’m just one store away from the absolute perfect butt-hugging, leg-lengthening pair of jeans.  But that’s the thing about denim, the reason why we’ve devoted this issue to it. It’s the one article of clothing that, in its purest form, promises utter transformation. It is at once sexy, cool, youthful, and swaggering. You don’t just wear a great pair of jeans so much as rock them.”

News flash, editors:  To many of your readers, denim is not all that.

Granted, for those readers heading off to school, where denim is de rigueur, and to those with actual or wanna-be careers in music or Hollywood, a review of the latest denim styles can be valuable. But for many successful career women and for most women of a certain age, denim is simply not an important part of our wardrobes.

Part of my bias against denim stems from my mother, who despised denim. To her, it reminded of farmers’ overalls, a style most certainly not considered chic at and after the Great Depression (think Grapes of Wrath).

Part of my bias is that I am simply not shaped properly for denim. My legs are short and sturdy, and no jeans in the world are ever going to make them look long and lean.

Consider, editors:  Why not dedicate a similarly substantial number of pages of your magazines each autumn to finding the perfect pair of flattering black pants that can take a woman through the autumn and winter? That’s an item of clothing that women of every age and circumstance can embrace.

Make Anything Look More Expensive

The February 2015 issue of Lucky magazine, amid a display of fashions that unmistakably target a younger demographic than the readers of this blog, contains a piece entitled “Stylist Confidential:  Make Anything Look More Expensive.” Drawing upon the expertise of four top stylists, the magazine highlights “cost-saving fashion tricks” that elevate the perception of one’s personal style.

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From Kate Young: “Be careful with prints, as they can look inexpensive more easily. Instead, opt for items in bright solid colors or black, which is always a safe bet.” Not only can prints look expensive, they tend to be memorable and can be a look you tire of after multiple wearings. I would amend Young’s advice to suggest also generally avoiding bright solid colors, unless you know that they flatter your coloring. Generally, complex and subtle colors are more expensive to produce than brights and have nuances and shading that is more flattering to most complexions.

From Kathryn Neale:  “A good tailor can be a game changer. Hemming pants or cuffs to fit you perfectly costs less than $20 and adds polish.”  Unfortunately, the photo of Neale shows her in a skirt, not pants, so there is no visual representation of her tip. Image consultants, like stylists, will tell you that proper tailoring of your garments is the single most important way to upgrade your look. Good tailoring is worth every dollar you spend.

From Karen Kaiser:  “Elevate your basics–like a white shirt, structured blazer and wide-leg trousers–with splurge-worthy accents. I always invest in shoes, outerwear and a great pair of sunglasses.” She is wearing wonderful sunglasses, but her shoes are hidden by ground-dragging pants that might benefit from hemming. Since the point of the exercise was to provide “cost-saving fashion tricks,” “investing in” expensive shoes seems beyond the intended scope of the article. And, of course, there’s the issue that shoes must be kept in perfect condition, which can be expensive, as nothing makes an ensemble look more unkempt more than poorly maintained shoes.

From Jessica De Ruiter:  “Go timeless, not trendy.” Great advice, if you are able to sort out what is timeless and what is trendy. I would characterize the short-sleeve blouse she wears as trendy, although the skirt is classic. Pumps would be much more timeless than bright blue T-strap open-toe wedge shoes. I would have liked to see De Ruiter wearing what she considers a timeless ensemble.

The take-away from all this advice:  Buy classic styles in flattering solid colors or black, and have them tailored to fit. Know the style rules, and then feel free to break them to express your own personal style. Having your own unique personal style is priceless.